What’s Your Pointless Obsession?

What’s your pointless obsession? It’s got to be pointless and yet take up lots of time that really you would be better spent working in a soup kitchen or raking the leaves. Mine is PIM (and I am not talking about the drink).

What’s your pointless obsession? It’s got to be pointless and yet take up lots of time that really you would be better spent working in a soup kitchen or raking the leaves.

Mine is Personal Information Management. Somebody invented the concept of PIM and they set in motion a train that would mean I would spend hours searching for ways to the same thing over (and over) again. The goal is, as always, a reasonable one: to synchronise calendar & address information between the office and home (including my Treo using different calendars. It should, in theory, be easy but it’s not. I’ve moved the criteria recently to search for an online WAP-accessible calendar which means I could have a smaller, cheaper ‘phone than the Treo for times when it’s not really appropriate (or practical) to take it with me.

The plan was to use Yahoo Calendar as the gateway between home and the office – synchronising all – but it doesn’t quite work. I find the Yahoo-Outlook synchronisation causes too many errors when synchronising (although it’s fine to overwrite). Yahoo won’t synchronise my Palm Desktop at home (although it will sync with the Treo). I can export my Palm address book via a file upload to Y Calendar but the date book option fails every time. Yahoo Calendar’s WAP implementation works so it would satisfy that criteria if it would hook into everything else properly. I wonder if anybody really does use it or if it’s just a nice ‘we have’ gimmick?

Now, I’ve spoken about all this before. It’s pointless and really very unnecessary. I really can’t see my address book and/or calendar options are any more demanding than anybody else on the planet: I might be trying to be a little sophisticated with my use of them but I don’t think my uses are different – I’m just trying not to have multiple out-of-date copies of things. Of course, it’s a geeky thing to want and it’s frustrating that nothing out there does what I want.

But (in my best Points of View voice), why-oh-why do I choose this as my time consuming obsession? Am I alone?

Does Remote Storage Work

Is it possible to have the things I use regularly available on remote servers and never need to care about them myself?

Like many people I signed up for all the free web-based email accounts (RocketMail – now Yahoo, Lycos, Excite, Hotmail etc.) but I never really used them. Over time I let most of the lapse and only really use Yahoo and – now – Gmail but I do not use any of them as my main mail account. I didn’t use them primarily because I didn’t want to pay to be connected to the web to read my mail (my POP accounts were better) and I wanted to maintain addresses at my own domain and – at the time – none of those interfaces allowed you to be seen as another mail address. Yahoo, of course, also provides photo storage, address books and calendars.

My web hosting company allows me to use my space as a virtual hard-drive (if I work out how to configure it) and – as I have noted – Flickr is becoming my personal choice for photographs (even though I could try and manage it myself on my own servers) while I use Bloglines for feed aggregation. So, the question is, can I now run my life using storage space away from my own computer?

Here are some of my considerations:

  • Outside of work (which I am not proposing to move) I have precious few documents so I don’t need masses of file space for them (I suspect my Yahoo account would happily cope).
  • Photos: I can’t get away from the lack of storage (even at Flickr) for them but I suspect it will cope with all the photographs I care about (the rest would only be archived to CD anyway).
  • Music: This is the difficult one as I upload music to my Treo’s mp3 player so I am not carrying it all around with me all the time (in a iPod style). Perhaps it is time to re-address that issue.
  • Mail: I have archives of mail in Mozilla Mail format. What I think I need is Mozilla’s roaming profiles but I have idea how they work.
  • Bookmarks: Ditto (but in the mean time Yahoo Companion bar and Yahoo Bookmarks should work).

Do you have any tips for me? Will it work? If it works I only need a reasonable internet connection to have my whole life on tap. What I really need is a proper method for synchronisation – but I’ve ranted about that before.

A Box That Does It All

The MBEN’s job is to sort it out, handle it, deliver it, and to do so automatically. You don’t have to get a bunch of different little boxes to store and sort through things. It has an audio/video tuner, an amp, a hard drive, everything necessary for you to do the things you want to do.

Mobile phones and PDAs – something I try to talk about occasionally and not very well. It’s at times like this that I bow to somebody with superior writing and thought processing capabilities. Therefore, gentle reader my I present Lance Arthur: The MBEN Cometh. If you read these words of wisdom you’ll understand what I was trying to say.

My Data

I have a lot to say about PIMs and have decided to start to vent here. Oh dear.

At some point – I do not remember exactly when – I needed to start to organise my life. I was, no doubt, a typical teenager and needed to keep addresses and ‘phone numbers for friends in a book. Then I needed a diary to oragnise my life (in fact, I am fairly certain my first diary was about 1984). So, I started to keep an appointment diary. The addresses and telephone numbers were in the back. Of course, back in the dark ages, I didn’t need to keep track of email addresses and mobile numbers. Each Christmas as a new diary was purchased for the forthcoming year the addresses/phone numbers were cleaned up and entered into a new book. Life was easier.

When I went to University then my diary started to become more of a necessity as I needed a way to organise. Sometime after I started work it morphed into a Filofax which helped oragnise a little more but wighted considerably more. But still the pages with the telephone numbers kept getting cleaned up each year. When I lived in a flat I started to need to keep more names and numbers (you know, the people who you have to pay bills to, the man who fixed the leak in the roof etc.).

In 1997 (I have the exact date somewhere) I bought a one of the original generations of Palm Pilot (specifically the Palm Pilot Professional as it had more memory than the personal version) and life – at least when it came to diaries and personal data – changed forever. Seven years on I can conclude that the addition of a digital diary (or personal information manager as they are known) has both made life easier and more frustrating in equal measures. Now, with the addition of mobile telephony to the device, I yearn for a simpler way.

I will be writing more later and when I have done I hope that somebody who develops these devices will come across my words and think about ways to come good on the promise of making the management of our personal data banks easier.

Phones and PDAs

I have spent the last few days trying to decide if I should update my ‘phone with Orange and today I have decided against.

I have spent the last few days trying to decide if I should update my ‘phone with Orange and today I have decided against. I have been contemplating upgrading my phone to one of those ‘phones that is both PDA and ‘phone. I am hoping this would stop me carrying multiple devices around with me and, also, ensure that I was in sync across all the things I use to try and orgainse my life. Sadly, I have decided there isn’t a device for me.

The Orange SPV seems to get me a lot of the way but the ‘phone hasn’t had the greatest reviews and, to be honest, if I was going to pay that much money I think I would like either Bluetooth or a camera built it (apparently, the next version will have both of these things). It also features a MP3 player that will, of course, play WMA format. I won’t get started on music formats – I am sure there is a whole post there.

Now the Treo 600 also interests me. It is a combined PDA and phone and will be able to utilise most of the palm-related software that I have already installed and use on my trusty Palm Vx. The Real One Mobile that you could use on the Treo doesn’t play WMA files which means that I would have to re-encode most of my music and, as I am not that much of an audiophile, I’d rather have the disc space.

Now, neither of these devices does all I need or want and I am not going to spend that much money yet. My Nokia 7650 tries to sync contacts and a diary but doesn’t do it very well. I looked at the Sony Ericsson T610 but it doesn’t seem to be much of a leap on from the Nokia I have.

So, what’s my wish list? A Palm-powered device which is also a ‘phone and decent MP3 player. If I had the money it would also be Bluetooth and WiFi enabled. One day, somebody will make it, I’ll have the money and we’ll meet in a shop on Oxford Street.

Oh, and if you have tips on getting the Nokia 7650 to sync well (not just sync, but sync well) with the Outlook I use in the office, then please let me know.